Biden Unveils an Ambitious Plan to End Hunger—But Congress Has Little Appetite to Act On It

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If Republicans retake the House, as expected, the administration’s food security agenda is likely doomed.

At a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health on Wednesday, President Joe Biden outlined a bold plan to eliminate hunger in the United States over the next decade.

“I know we can do this, end hunger in this country by 2030, and lower the toll that dietary-related diseases take on too many Americans,” Biden told the crowd of hundreds of nutrition advocates Wednesday. 

There’s just one problem: the biggest components of that bold plan require congressional buy-in Biden doesn’t have and is unlikely to get anytime soon.

The conference was the first of its kind in more than 50 years, when the Nixon Administration convened more than 5,000 experts who collectively made and voted on 1,800 food and nutrition recommended policy changes, according to a 2020 report by the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. The 1969 conference was incredibly productive: 1,560 of the recommendations were implemented within a few years, including permanent authorization of the National School Breakfast Program and the creation of a government benefit to boost food security among low-income pregnant women, new mothers and their young children, known today as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC for short.

Nixon’s conference also laid the foundation for changes to the federal food stamp program, such as requiring that food stamp disbursements be able to cover the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet.

Biden administration officials hope Wednesday’s event will be similarly momentous. “In the years following the previous conference, Congress created transformational programs like WIC that have enjoyed bipartisan support for generations and have helped millions of Americans live healthier lives,” said one administration official during a briefing on the conference earlier this week. “We are committed to taking similarly bold action.”

In advance of the conference, the White House announced $8 billion in public- and private-sector commitments, including at least $2.5 billion towards start-ups working on combating food insecurity and $4 billion in philanthropic funds geared towards helping people access healthy foods and participate in physical activity. FoodCorps, a national nonprofit, has pledged $250 million to increase access to free school meals and to expand nutrition education in school settings. Publix grocery chain promised $3.85 million towards mobile food pantries that will offer free fruits and vegetables. Washington State’s Department of Health announced it will launch an online platform that allows WIC recipients to order food for pick-up or delivery.

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